The Media Struggles to Explain a Problem it Created

Donald Trump campaigned as a blue collar billionaire. Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Emilio Labrador / Flickr (CC BY 2.0) and Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).
Reading Time: 4 minutes

This is the first part of a multi-part WhoWhatWhy election autopsy.

It is ironic that the corporate media is now trying to figure out the rise of Donald Trump. After all, they are largely responsible for it by giving the president-elect a platform and not aggressively calling out his lies.

But the media’s journalistic malpractice goes back far beyond the Republican primary — to a time decades ago when so much of America’s Main Street economy unraveled as tens of thousands of factories were closed and jobs were shipped overseas.

At the time, these changes were all portrayed as part of a plan that would lead to a new world order of increasing planetary democracy and global prosperity. But what they have delivered is an increasingly unstable world with failed nation states, increasing wealth concentration, and an army of tens of millions of young men with nothing to do but resent their circumstance.

For decades after the Second World War the US and USSR Cold War offered a kind of stabilizing influence on the world’s nation-states that could exploit the polarity between the two world powers to promote their own domestic tranquility. Increasingly, emerging nation states now find themselves caught between servicing legacy debt, even as they feel the impacts of a global slowdown brought on by China’s economic reset, and a rising tide of idle youth.

As a report from the United Nation’s International Labour Organization warned in a world wide survey earlier this year, “continuing high rates of unemployment worldwide and chronic vulnerable employment in many emerging and developing economies are still deeply affecting the world of work.”

The link between increasing idleness among young people and the rise of terrorist insurgencies is well documented. Back in 2015 the International Journal of Public Administration and Management Research noted that “the collapse of social institutions and the failure of the economic system to generate sufficient means of livelihood for people is an explanation for youths’ increasing involvement in conflict and war situations all over Africa.” Specifically, the authors noted that in “Nigeria, national security is threatened when unemployed youths are involved in conflict situations such as religious and ethnic conflicts.”

But this new world order is not limited to the heart of Africa. Consider that back in 2011, it was the 26-year-old Tunisian fruit seller Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation that launched the Arab Spring and gave voice to a generation looking for a way to support themselves and their families. Bouazizi’s modest fruit stand had provided for his mother, his uncle and five brothers, until the local authorities decided to confiscate his wares and repeatedly beat him when he asked for their return. Forget violent jihad, these millions of millennials may have just wanted a job.

The confluence of economic dislocation in so much of the world, and the destabilization of so many countries caught up in the so called war on terrorism, are part of the geo-political currents that have landed millions of refugees on Europe’s doorstep in the biggest such migration since World War II.

In essence, what America’s working class was rejecting on November 8 was not just the eight years of Obama rule, but multiple presidencies where the big banks got bigger, and the military industrial complex enjoyed carte blanche.

Since the Great Recession, the media went from benign neglect of Main Street to outright advocacy for a so-called global free trade system, even as it became clear that this had hollowed out America’s cities and led to the decimation of millions of American households.

We were made to believe that the integration of global markets was like gravity itself, something we dare not stop for fear of being set adrift.

But perhaps most important, the media maintained the fiction that when it came to the most critical issues for America’s working class — the economy, global trade, and US force projection overseas — the Republican and Democratic parties offered competing and opposing worldviews.

The populist revolt that catapulted Trump into the White House was years in the making, not just across the span of Barack Obama’s tenure, but going back at least to George W. Bush’s presidency.

Not long after 9-11, the Bush administration approved a transaction — known as the Dubai Port World deal — allowing a corporation owned by the United Arab Emirates to take over several of America’s largest port facilities. Bush’s mercantile Republicanism was so roundly condemned by right-wing talk show host Michael Savage that it helped cast him as a modern day Paul Revere, warning of the loss of critical infrastructure. (Although others, such as Sen. Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, had also warned against it.)

It was Savage’s mantra of “borders, language and culture” that defined Trump’s message.

On issues such as free trade, the federal coddling of Wall Street, and how to prosecute the so-called global war on terrorism, there was seamless continuity from the approach taken by Bush, a Republican, to that of Obama, a Democrat.

In essence, what America’s working class was rejecting on November 8 was not just the eight years of Obama rule, but multiple presidencies where the big banks got bigger, and the military industrial complex enjoyed carte blanche.

And, no matter which party was in control, facilitating a trade policy that benefited only multi-nationals became our national policy. To add insult to injury, members of both parties cashed in after their “public service.”

What was new about Trump’s rhetoric was that he attacked both parties’ elites on issues like free trade and excessive militaristic adventurism, while pledging “to drain the swamp” of the influence peddling that has for decades sustained the professional political class of both parties.

In the coming days, WhoWhatWhy will examine the causes of Main Street’s meltdown and global instability which led to this populist revolt at the polls.

Read subsequent parts of the series here, as they are published:

Part II: The American Dream Deferred

Part III: The Mirage of Economic Recovery

Part IV: Numbers Lay Bare the Despair of Voters


Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Main Street (Gerry Dincher / Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0)

Where else do you see journalism of this quality and value?

Please help us do more. Make a tax-deductible contribution now.

Our Comment Policy

Keep it civilized, keep it relevant, keep it clear, keep it short. Please do not post links or promotional material. We reserve the right to edit and to delete comments where necessary.

print

13 responses to “The Media Struggles to Explain a Problem it Created”

  1. […] coverage, while maintaining my writing during the day for Salon, WBGO, City & State and WhoWhatWhy.  It was sort of my version of Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in […]

  2. VoxFox says:

    The ‘workers’ in MSM know the wishes of their owners through daily contact with their managers. So, they self-bias their views to comply with the Group-Think in their corporations so as to keep their overpaid jobs. This is how the views of a tiny minority are magnified enormously.

  3. billy jean says:

    I just tried to get some of the FREE FOOD That Michael Savage advertised today. THIS IS A HUGH SCAM. DONT TRY IT. Never trust Savage again.

  4. Westcoastliberal says:

    This election is a prime example of too much consolidation in the mainstream media. With only 5 or 6 companies owning 90%+ of the major outlets, and with these companies having interlocking boards of directors with the mil/ind complex, it’s no wonder they were all in the bag for Hillary; 95% of all articles positive for her and negative for Trump, tied with a bow of fake poll numbers to deceive and discourage voters since the race was “already decided”.
    Bring back the fairness doctrine and enforce the Sherman antitrust act to break up the huge monopolies as it was intended.

  5. Richard Garrison says:

    I’ve been paying attention to elections since JFK, and this recent one was among the most bizarre, the most alarming I’ve ever witnessed. There are several reasons why I think there was some rigging going on, but not against Trump. The startling attempt by the FBI to influence the outcome, the massive voter turnout, especially among African-Americans, in the primaries that evaporated in my home state of NC for the election, Clinton’s decisive lead of 70% of the votes in early voting in FLA that made it necessary for Trump to have taken 70% or more of the election day voting to win by his final 1% margin, the fact that in the primaries Clinton did better than polls predicted and Trump did worse, and the polls had Clinton ahead all the way to election day, the fact that Trump won the swing states of Florida, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan each by around 1%, and the fact that the polls were consistently wrong for the first time in the history of modern polling, are all alarm bells. This election warrants a thorough investigation.

    • cyberdove says:

      The polls have been wrong before. Many people give false information to pollsters or simply hang up when they call. Also, the MSM polls were rigged to favor their girl in the hopes of swaying the voters. They found that there are not nearly as many cattle among the unwashed masses as they had hoped for.

    • Enchanted says:

      They were LYING, plain and simple. These people were in the bag for Hillary from the beginning. They did what ever they could to get their messiah elected. If it weren’t for the wikileaks emails, I doubt the American people would know the woman is a deviant treasonous criminal.

      Additionally, I believe that some people were afraid to say publicly they were voting for Trump. Case in point – grubhub. The CEO told his people that if they voted for Trump to look for another job. That guy has violated a few laws, but that is another story for another thread.

    • LAK says:

      I think you need to do more research. This isn’t the first time in “the history of modern polling” that they have been wrong. It actually happens every once in a while. Speaking of polling, the exit polls actually showed that a chunk of Trump’s voting block made their decision to vote for him, rather than third party, in the voting booth. Please do some research on a subject before you comment. Oh, if there was election fraud it would be with the Dems and the almost 3 million illegal votes that were placed along with the fact they are in charge of most of the county clerks and voting stations.

    • Jeff Clyburn says:

      Please cite your claim that 3 million illegal votes were placed.

    • Jeff Clyburn says:

      Nevermind, I found it. And, as expected, it’s another bogus RW claim making the rounds on bogus RW “news” sites and shared as if it were fact:

      <>

      http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2016/nov/18/blog-posting/no-3-million-undocumented-immigrants-did-not-vote-/

      I believe it was you who insisted: “please do some research on a subject before you comment.”

    • Richard Garrison says:

      Perhaps I should have said, “the polls were consistently wrong to the greatest extent in modern polling history.” However, I’m curious where you get the 3 million illegal vote figure, and the “fact” that Democrats “are in charge of most of the county clerks and voting stations.” I think you need to do more research and I would suggest starting with reading what Greg Palast has discovered about “Crosscheck.”

  6. Giovanni Bianchini says:

    So the media, controlled by the government and Wall Street needs to distance itself from itself and report news not propaganda. If it created the problem, then let it deal with it. I hope the Donald has enough nerve to slap them where it hurts. Whowhatwhy needs to do more to expose the media for what they really are. Forget the Donald, go after the media lie machine.